10 Observations from the San Diego Chargers Second Offensive Drive

10. Because penalties feel like an intrusion, an adulteration of pure football by the officials, their impact can be overstated, but there are times when a drive hinges on a penalty. Ken Lucas nullified Darryl Tapp's beautiful pass defense and extended a dead Chargers drive by holding Chris Chambers. It was an obvious hold, fistful of jersey and everything, and an unnecessary hold. Tapp not only defended the pass intended for Antonio Gates, he jammed 85 and disrupted his route. The 6'4", 260 Gates is not bruising, but he's physical. What's impressive, though, is Tapp jammed Gates after Tapp released into a zone.

9. My speculation about Fire Zone blitzes seems founded. Seattle ran multiple textbook Fire Zone blitzes.

8. The exact number, orientation left or right, ANY/A, Success %, Int %, and Sack % of all plays broken out by formation will be tabulated by the end of the week. More time means I will be able to break out more tables this season.

7. Leroy Hill, though beat, showed some of the best cover skills I can remember from him, when he shielded and at least partially forced an incomplete pass to Gates. He was close and his timing was sound. It would be nice if he could tip the pass.

6. That play, Seattle sent Hill one-on-one deep. Patrolling the shallow middle was Patrick Kerney and Brian Russell.

5. Seattle best expressed its vanilla leanings during preseason play with its formations. Seattle flexed out of a 4-3 only three times in 10 plays, and that was to a 4-2 nickel. It also kept its line and linebackers neutral and not shading strong or weak side.

4. Grant excels at charging from the second/third level and tackling, defending the pass and defending the run. Jim Mora has kept him mostly in over coverage, though playing man sparingly. Over cover allowed a cheepy third down reception to Gates, but longterm it plays to Grant's strengths. Viva Cover 2.

3. The performance of Brandon Mebane will define this defensive line. Early returns indicate nationwide dominance. On the fourth play, he tore through Kris "Sunshine" Dielman, drew a threatened assist from Darren Sproles and forced a hurried pass underneath. It was underneath Seattle's linebacker zone too, and was completed for five and the first.

On the next play, Mebane flipped sides*, knocked back and walked over Kynan Forney and hit the hole before LaDainian Tomlinson did. If Mebane keeps this up, it will release this, the single blocked Colin Cole, and not this, the double teamed Colin Cole.

*This is an important distinction between Seattle's new system and its system under John Marshall. The tackles are assigned gaps, but less so sides. Cole is used to stuff the line, but he can do so from either side. Also of interest: Mebane is not playing a pure three, but more of an undertackle position. He doesn't always align over the three gap, but his assignment is always one-gap, penetration and disrupt.

2. Cole showed some football intelligence when he learned from a previous screen attempt that left him tripped-over-his-feet. On the ninth play of the drive, San Diego ran an identical screen to - devastating in space - Darren Sproles. Cole read it, peeled out and was there to give Leroy Hill a wall to crash Sproles into. Hill ran untouched between San Diego's lead blockers. Forney and Jeromey Clary looked like Detlef Schrempf and Sam Perkins defending Michael Jordan.

1. The play of the drive belongs to Lofa Tatupu. I bristle when commentators disparage Tatupu's athleticism. Yes, he's built like a can of motor oil, and no that's not a frame conducive to straight line speed, but Tatupu moves through space with the control and precision of a top athlete. In the screen pass alluded to, the one Cole over-rushed a receding lineman and fell, the Chargers were constructing a monster.

1-10-SD 33 (9:07) 17-P.Rivers pass short right to 21-L.Tomlinson to SD 41 for 8 yards (51-L.Tatupu, 56-L.Hill).

San Diego: 2 WR (right), WR (left), I (right)

Seattle: 4-3

Tapp over-pursues and is pushed into the turf. Cole falls. Forney and Nick Hardwick cleanly release into the second level. Tomlinson, still a dangerous receiver at 30, gets good spacing behind his lead blockers, receives and redirects smoothly. Bad news...until Lofa charges from the third level, positions himself between Forney and the sideline sealing the edge, stops and then avoids a cut block with a graceful, low-altitude jump cut. It's exquisite. Forney ineffectually belly flops and Tatupu is in perfect position and equilibrium to tackle Tomlinson. He thrusts for the wrap, Tomlinson surges forward behind Hardwick, and Hill adds the coup de grace, leaping over and on top of Hardwick and tackling Tomlinson from above. The play nets eight on first and ten, but given how fooled the defensive line was and how expertly Tomlinson positioned himself, this is a saving tackle performed with awareness, expertise and athleticism.

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